soundboard
The Quarterly Journal of the Guitar Foundation of America
Winter 1996

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH: New Transcriptions for Guitar

Philip Hii, guitar

·Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue BWV 903
·Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659
·Sonata in E minor (Adagio, Allemande, Gigue) BWV 1023
·Prelude, Fugue and Allegro BWV 998
·Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 639
·Toccata and Fugue, BWV 565

GSP 1012CD, © 1995 

Recording - rich ambience, with ample detail & dynamic range

Performance - astonishing technique, abundant ideation & liquid expression

Comments - To play Bach on the guitar is a constant conundrum - one always has the choice to follow the well-trodden path and learn one of the dozens of arrangements of the so-called "lute suites" on the market, feeling adventuresome by perhaps adding a new ornament or two, or some erudite passagi, or. . . take a chance, take the road less traveled.

The first step is to go outside of the string repertoire (see above), the next is to search the keyboard works for likely candidates, and it is here where Philip Hii (pronounced Hee) has struck pay dirt. Some pieces are familiar, such as the opening & closing works, while some are rather obscure, such as the cantata excerpts, or the BWV 1023 accompanied violin sonata, whose prelude is sure to be the next favorite, reminding one of the E-major Partita Prelude. The sense of discovery is heightened by Hii's elegant sense of timing, his genuine interpretation and superb phrasing, the result being a completely satisfying Bach recital that borders on revelation. [Oh yes - here's someone with enough vision to perform the Prelude to Bach's famous P, F & A at a fast tempo, which the symmetry of the structure demands. The daCapo fugue, so rare in Bach, is a towering "slow/fast/slow" tryptych (8th-note exposition, 16th-note "development", 8th note recap), followed by the knucklebusting Allegro (which Hii takes at a clip reminiscent of Glenn Gould's Italian Concerto Presto); so doesn't it make sense to balance the rapid closing Allegro with an up-tempo Prelude? See if you don't agree - and kudos to Hii for tying himself to the mast of his inspiration and resisting the siren call of that most seductive of all Preludes, avoiding drowning in the bathos as have so many before him].

Yes, two roads diverged in a wood, and Hii - he took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

·Highest Recommendation

-John Schneider

© 1996 Soundboard Magazine